There is no denying that the craft beer industry is male dominated; if it wasn’t, would there be a surge of all-female craft beer groups a la Girls Pint Out, Barley’s Angels, or the Pink Boots Society? I would like to think we are past the days of “no girls allowed” when it comes to beer. And to a large part, we are; I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that I receive on a daily basis from my brewer friends. But I am seeing more and more that girls are allowed, as long as they are not very feminine. I admit, I am not a girly girl and never have been. But that doesn’t mean that a female whose favorite color is pink, enjoys flowers, and covets Jimmy Choos should be completely disqualified as a promotor of a beer event based solely on her appearance. That idea seems a little dated, don’t you think? And a few days ago, a little incident on Twitter started to make me question whether the days of “no girls allowed” may be making a comeback.
The incident started when I was sent a link via Twitter to a local public relations firm (Skirt PR) with a comment about how they were promoting some beer events around Chicago. I saw the Tweet and responded without really looking at it; I was busy (getting my hair cut, if you must know…) and just glanced over the webpage before enthusiastically replying. My initial reaction, though, was a positive one; I always try to support females breaking into the beer industry whether as brewers, bloggers, or promotional staff. Well, that sent off a firestorm of many local Chicago beer bloggers and Twitter commenters condemning me on that comment. I tried to just ignore it but it just kept going on and on, and I kept getting more and more upset. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. How silly to criticize a business without even knowing what they are about? How foolish to judge before getting the full story? That motivated me to contact Skirt PR in hopes of gaining an interview to get a better understanding about what this firm is about and how they got into providing the PR services for a beer dinner.
To my amazement, the President and Founder of the company, Adrienne Eckert Petersen, emailed me back within an hour of my reaching out to her. While she wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting, we set up a time on Monday evening where I would meet up with four of her employees, who all handle the “beer” account. We met at my favorite place to conduct an interview, Map Room, to have beers and to discuss how the Skirt PR firm got involved in providing publicity for the Headquarters Beercade Green Flash Beer Dinner. After we all arrived at Map Room, we immediately got beers. Three Great Lakes Christmas Ales (one of those was mine), a Brickstone American Pale Ale, and a Three Floyds Alpha King were ordered, and then we set up shop at a table in the back of the bar.
Contrary to what was discussed on Twitter, Green Flash did not hire Skirt PR; rather, Headquarters Beercade has been working with the Skirt PR team to change the perception of the “geeky” arcade and make it more of a nightlife experience, complete with a Cicerone-currated, constantly rotating craft beer list as well as creative cocktails. Skirt PR assists with the event planning, marketing and all of the public relations for this space, as well as for the management and ownership company, Capacity Bar Group. “Our profile is girly, but we’ve always had a lifestyle component. We’ve been doing the PR for The Bedford since it opened,” said Caryn Schoenbeck, a Senior Account Executive at Skirt PR.
“When it comes to Skirt and people don’t know us, it’s like, immediate judgment. We’re not mean or intimidating. We definitely get that misconception, though,” said Caryn. Actually, a lot of “guy” brands hire Skirt PR because they are their target audience; females are the people companies want to express their message to as women are the main household decision makers. “Our website’s pink and it does have Barbies on it so people think it’s funny that we do represent Headquarters. If you go to Headquarters, it seems like it is the opposite of us. But I handle the social media for Headquarters and am trained to be a chameleon when it comes to developing a brand’s voice virally. They are definitely different from Skirt’s voice but that doesn’t make us any less capable [of promoting them],” said Caitlin Brown, Skirt PR’s Social Media Maven.
While all of the women I met with clearly enjoy beer and have varying degrees of knowledge, they all admit that they are not experts. But they are having a hell of a time learning and trying the new beers at Headquarters. And Whitney Read, an Assistant Account Executive, made an excellent point: they never start as experts with many of the products they publicize. That is part of the process of onboarding a client. They have to learn and educate themselves on every product, whether it is face cream or craft beer. What they are experts in is public relations and that is what they are hired for. In no sense of the imagination is it a threat to the sanctity of craft beer that Skirt PR is publicizing some craft beer events. The four ladies I hung out with on Monday night were some of the nicest, smartest, articulate and hardworking young women I have ever met and I am proud to know that they are representing craft beer.
The first beer event at Headquarters Beercade (located in Lakeview at 950 W Wolfram) is tonight from 7pm to 9pm and includes six Green Flash Brewing Company beers paired with delectable nibbles from Chef Chris Cason. Not able to make it there tonight? Never fear! Skirt PR will be promoting other beer events in the near future, including one with Solemn Oath Brewing on New Year’s Eve, where Solemn Oath will be providing a special keg for the occasion.
I am not trying to pick on anyone or call anyone out that may have upset me during the little Twitter scuffle; I merely feel like it is mandatory to get all of the information before making a determination that a firm like Skirt PR can’t provide public relations services for a beer dinner merely because they have been focusing on fashion and beauty clients thus far. If we want to reach more people and show them what craft beer has to offer, then we need to be more mainstream in the way we reach out to consumers, especially to women. While I am not a girly-girl and do not compare myself to Barbie (I never fit into that mold), who’s to say Barbie isn’t a beer geek? Maybe I’ll recommend that to Mattel. Beer Geek Barbie. I think I may be on to something…